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Why Young Palestinians Are Leaving Gaza In Droves

  • Migration is a phenomenon that is as old as human history and accompanies this history uninterruptedly. Migration itself, its shape, quality, direction, and reasons are affected by epistemic breaks in human history. 
  • When it comes to migration today in the context of Palestinians in Gaza, it is about “survival”, where different factors trigger this behavior, both internal and external. In this context, human history has examined a migration movement from the East to the West. With the economic situation getting worse by the day and political crises mounting in the coastal enclave of Gaza, young people, the majority of whom are jobless, take on the dangerous path of migration.

Looking at Gaza, there are also specific aspects of migration arising from the Palestinian issue itself. In this framework, there are political motivations behind why some Palestinians migrated from Gaza. Thanks to Israel's pressures against Gaza resulting from its military operations that caused a humanitarian crisis, accelerating migration waves from the region are still taking place. Placing Hamas under siege in Gaza, which in turn grew impatient of political and economic protest against its rule, which caused further unemployment, political rift, and lack of opportunities, have contributed to this end.

Due to Israel's military operations, migration waves from Gaza have increased. In other words, Palestinians who have lost their loved ones and families due to Israeli attacks are trying to migrate from Gaza because Palestinians don’t want to face the same fate and because the only thing that ties them to Gaza are painful memories. Ahmed Al-Masri, 25 years old, was shot in the leg two years ago by the Israeli army. His treatment journey in the Gaza Strip, where he suffers from ruptures in his bones after he was shot on March 30, 2018, and the lack of medicine pushed him to seek treatment abroad.

Al-Masri said, “I wanted to change my life. I did many jobs in Gaza, but at the end, we were all unemployed. I wanted to travel and look for a job or migrate to Europe, I could not even return to Gaza, I had no money in Egypt, even when the crossing was opened, I had to borrow money to go back to Gaza. I didn't even have the opportunity to go to Europe.” The COVID19 pandemic left a heavy weight on Gazans who were looking for a new homeland abroad.

E.A a Palestinian student in Malaysia, who won a scholarship to study an MA degree, has left Gaza completely. “I was not willing to leave my family and where I live, but it was very difficult for me to continue work for almost nothing. I read a lot and I know what decent human life means. I worked hard. Does it make sense to work for 1,000 NIS (320$) a month while transportation alone costs 400 NIS? Everything was so bad. I wanted to live like a human being. I have published articles in different American, Malaysian and European journals about Palestine. I also write articles to support my family there. They will never silence my pen.”

The anger in E. A. voice is clear; she left her hometown and migrated, aiming to make the voice of that youth heard.

In my conversation with Y.R. (Nickname), who lives in Jabalya Refugee Camp in Gaza, he talked about his migration from Gaza by saying: “I couldn't complete my university education, and I started working with my father in the fishing industry at a young age. Over the years, I did many jobs to earn a living. Most recently, I opened a small grocery store in Jabalya Refugee Camp on a plot of land owned by father. But two years later, the Hamas police asked me to close the shop and demolished it, because they claim that the land belonged to the government. We have the deeds for the land which proves it belongs to my father.”

Y.R. managed to get out of Gaza by accompanying a patient who went to Egypt. From Egypt, he travelled to Turkey, then reached the Greek islands by boat by giving money to smugglers. He then fled to Italy and from there to Belgium. After receiving two refusals to his refugee application in Belgium in three years, he received a permanent residence permit and he is still waiting to unite with his wife and two children for ten months now. “Every time I see a little boy on the street, I want to hug him and cry so bad because I miss my sons and my wife who suffer and endure what no one else could bear. Life is too hard for me, so I put myself under even greater pressure to guarantee a happy life for my wife and my children in a place where they have rights and a better future.”

Another reason for migration from Gaza is the economic situation, which adds to political pressures. Most young people who go abroad to study do not return back. R. Y, for instance, left Gaza when he could not offer to even pay for the school bus of his own children, as he was getting into debt. “I remember it like a nightmare. Suddenly, things collapsed, and the goods started not coming. Taxes have increased exaggeratedly. Traders' stocks began to run out. I thought the world was going to collapse on me. I didn't know whether to cover my family's expenses or to pay the bills or debts with the money I earn monthly. My cousin said, "come on, you can live comfortably in Canada and find a job, if you don't think about yourself, think about your family, think about your little children. I miss Gaza, I wish we could go back, and everything is fine again,” said R.Y.

Migration from Gaza should be seen not only as a situation arising from political and economic pressures, but as a potential force that could contribute to the liberation of Palestine from Israel’s settler-colonialism. The same as the Irish and South Africa diasporas were able to contribute to the freedom of their people, these Palestinians migrating today, along with Palestinians who already live in almost every corner of the world, will one day serve as a force that will contribute to highlighting the racist nature of the Israeli state and bring about closure to Palestinians who have been waiting to win their freedom for more than 100 years now.

Eman Abuaisha is a journalist from Gaza, Palestine. She holds a BA in International Relations from Selçuk University, Turkey. She reports on the situation in Palestine and has interest in the connections Palestinians have with other struggles.

© Scoop Media

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